KINGPIN OF ORGANIZED CRIME”
"Lost" Adventure of Superman
reviewing episodes of the 1959-1963 ABC-TV series “The
Untouchables,” I was struck by how closely these shows
resembled in tone and style the first season episodes of the
syndicated “Adventures of Superman” series, filmed
eight years earlier in 1951. Both were played as gritty crime
dramas, both had a black-and-white “film noir” feel
to them, both were aimed at an adult audience, and both even
shared many of the same character actors playing the role of
gangsters and criminals. Another similarity: both featured
serious, heroic, morally incorruptible lead characters who gave
little quarter to the hoodlums and lawbreakers they pursued. The
only difference was that one wore a form-fitting costume and a
cape, and one wore a three-piece suit and fedora! The following
story is my attempt to recreate that same early “film noir”
approach to the Superman character.
This story takes place not long after the events of the 1951 TV
episodes “The Mind Machine” (written by Dennis Cooper
and Lee Backman) and “Crime Wave” (written by Ben
Saturday, October 13,
1951. The time: 6 P.M. The place: Just outside The Cambridge
Club, a local gambling casino located on the lower south side of
the city of Metropolis.
Two nondescript vans pulled up
just outside the illegal gambling club, located in a private
mansion. A raiding party of ten men made up of federal
agent volunteers led by county prosecutor John Cortes piled out
of both trucks and headed for the front door of the ornate
building. Cortes had known for some time that illegal activity
had been going on in the club, but so far he had not been able to
get any solid evidence to close the place down with. Now, as a
last ditch effort, he was resorting to an unannounced raid on the
“He’s not here yet,” one of the
agents behind Cortes said to him.
right,” Cortes replied. “We can start without
Cortes climbed the steps to the casino
building’s entrance and proceeded to pound on the casino’s
heavy front door.
Almost immediately the door opened a
couple of inches, and a man peered out through the narrow
“Whattaya want?” the man asked in a
arrogant tone of voice.
“I’m the county
prosecutor,” Cortes announced. “This is a raid. Open
up.” As he said this Cortes held up a warrant so the man
inside the doorway could see it.
come in. You need a private membership card to come in here,”
the man said. “Those papers don’t mean nothin’
The man slammed the door shut again. Cortes
could hear a lock being engaged inside.
Cortes pulled a
.38-caliber pistol out of the shoulder holster under his jacket.
The agents behind him pulled their weapons out as well. But just
then a faint whooshing sound could be heard off in the distance.
It could barely be heard at first, but it quickly got
All ten men looked up. Just then a muscular human
figure came leaping down out of the sky and landed on the stoop
next to Cortes with a thump.
“They won’t let
us in,” Cortes said to the newcomer.
Superman turned and without a word smashed both his palms against
the casino’s heavy oak door. It separated from its hinges
and flew inward.
The Man of Steel stepped inside the open
doorway. Immediately two thugs lounging nearby pulled pistols out
from under their coats and aimed them at the costumed intruder.
The casino thugs emptied their guns at the costumed
Bullets bounced in all directions. Unharmed,
Superman stepped forward and grabbed both of the casino
gangsters’ guns. He squeezed them into shapeless hunks of
metal and then threw them to the floor. Then he grabbed the two
shooters by their jacket fronts and slammed them violently into
each other. They both sank to the floor, unconscious.
back!” Superman shouted over his shoulder as a warning to
the men behind him. Two more hoodlums had just stepped forward
from a back room and lifted up a pair of loaded tommy guns,
pointing them at the Man of Steel. They let loose with a noisy
barrage of hot lead, raking their weapons across the entire front
wall of the room.
Superman spread out his arms in a pose
meant to protect the agents behind him. The agents behind him
ducked back outside the casino’s open doorway as the
bullets from the tommy guns tore into the walls and furniture and
windows at that end of the room.
Suddenly the mobsters’
weapons were out of ammunition. Superman stepped forward and
brought his fist down in the middle of a Craps table sitting in
front of him, splitting the table cleanly in two. He threw the
two pieces aside and advanced resolutely into the room.
federal agents started to pour into the room, waving their
pistols in the air. “This is a raid! Stay where you are!”
Cortes yelled. By this time most of the male gamblers had their
hands up in the air as their women companions stood where they
were and screamed.
Superman made his
way across the room, smashing and throwing aside various
blackjack tables, poker tables, baccarat
tables and slot machines as he went. When he approached the two
by now awe-struck owners of the tommy guns, they unceremoniously
dropped their empty weapons and whirled about, retreating into
the back room from which they had come. They had crossed the
inner room and were about to go through another door when
Superman came leaping over their heads and landed in front of
them, blocking their way. One hood made the mistake of throwing a
desperate punch to the Man of Steel’s jaw. Connecting, he
instantly pulled back his hand and shook it up and down, wailing
in pain over his three broken knuckles. Superman knocked the
other to the floor with one well-aimed punch.
October 19, 1951. The time: 8 P.M. The place: in front of the
Metropolitan Hotel, located in downtown Metropolis, lower south
“Big Ed” Bullock, a brute of a man
with a hard jaw, cold eyes, and wearing a slightly rumpled suit,
strode out of the cool night shadows into the ornate lobby of the
old, Victorian-style building. He turned to his right past some
columns and potted palms and headed into the hotel’s
attached café, The 120 Club. After being okayed by the
café’s maitre d’, he paused for a moment to
watch an attractive blonde torch singer singing an old blues tune
on the café’s small stage. Then he proceeded through
the club’s tables to the entrance to a back hallway, where
a hard-looking young hoodlum with darting eyes looked him over.
After passing inspection Bullock headed down the long, dimly-lit
hallway to a door marked “Office - Private”, where
another hoodlum stood. Nodding to that hoodlum he entered the
Inside another half a dozen guards were positioned
around the room. They all nodded curtly to him. Bullock crossed
to another door, opened it, and stepped inside.
Now he was
in an expansive meeting room, dominated with a long, ornate
mahogany table. Around this table were 11 matching chairs. In
each chair (except the one at the foot of the table, which was
currently empty) a gray-suited man sat. Some were smoking
cigarettes. They all looked up at Bullock as he entered.
I’m late,” Bullock grunted, as he took his place in
the empty chair at the table’s foot. “My gambling
joint was raided last night. I came as soon as I could after my
bail was posted.”
He looked around the table.
Besides himself, ten of the most wanted gangsters in the city
were there. To Bullock’s left sat Nick Marone, another
brutish-looking thug who was in charge of the slot machines in
the city. Next to him was Vince Jordan. Vince, a slight man with
spectacles balanced on his nose, functioned as a fence for the
underworld. The next chair was occupied by a huge man named Mike
Dana, nicknamed “The Crusher” by friend and foe
alike, for obvious reasons. Dana was a specialist in extortion
and loan-sharking. Duke Pizanno, expert importer and drug dealer,
occupied the next chair. Sitting next to Pizanno was Phil
“Shortcake” Mitchell, a little man who looked more
like someone’s harmless uncle than a gangster. His
specialty was kidnapping and ransom.
Across the table from
Mitchell was Harry McCann, the de facto head of the city’s
brothels. Next to him perched “Willie The Weeper”
Shoemacher, overseer of the city’s numbers and bookie
joints. George “Greasy” Born was in the next seat. He
specialized in providing “protection” for the city’s
restaurants. Sam “The Fish” Miller was in the next
chair, the unofficial leader of the city’s Longshoreman’s
Union. Next to him was Johnny Neale, a young, aggressive
operative that specialized in arson.
Every person at the
table had been recently arrested by a crackdown on organized
crime in the city. But every one of them had subsequently been
bailed out, and then released from custody.
leather-backed chair sat at the table’s head. Currently it
was also unoccupied. Everyone sat quietly, waiting for someone to
come into the room and fill the remaining chair. The chair had
once been occupied by Walter Canby, the previous head of all the
other men in the room. Canby, a prominent local attorney, had
recently been exposed as the secret leader of organized crime in
the city. Currently he was ensconced in jail, awaiting
Before long a door at one side of the room opened,
and a heavy, big-boned man with a slightly receding hairline and
a jowly face came into the room. He was dressed in an impeccable
light gray suit and an expensive silk tie. As he walked over to
the leather-backed chair there was an audible gasp from many of
the men around the table.
The big man slowly and with much
emphasis sat down in the large chair.
gentlemen,” he said, in an even voice. The speaker was Lou
Cranek, who not very long before had been incarcerated himself
for attempting to murder numerous witnesses against him and his
illegal activities in the city. Before his arrest he had been
crowned by the city’s newspapers with the title “The
Kingpin of Organized Crime.”
“All right, I’m
calling this meeting to order,” Cranek announced.
good to see you again, boss,” “Big Ed” piped
up. “But how – ”
how,” Cranek replied. “I employ a large battery of
the best lawyers in the state, and it’s their job to see
that if I ever end up, uh, detained by the police, that my stay
does not last for very long. That, and my connections to a number
of local, shall we say, less than honest politicians, judges, and
law enforcement professionals, are why I am here tonight.”
don’t remember voting you in as the new boss,” Mike
Dana said in a low voice.
The door through which Cranek
had entered the room was still open, and Cranek gestured toward
it. Immediately two big, burly men carrying tommy guns strode
into the room. They took their place on either side of
“I occupied this chair before Mr. Canby
did,” Cranek said, his voice level. “Now that he is
no longer here, I claim this chair once again by right of
ownership.” Cranek looked directly at Dana. “If it’s
a vote you want, Mr. Dana, then let’s have a vote right
now. Everyone who votes for me reclaiming my previous position as
head of this organization raise your right hand.”
two standing men with the tommy guns stared impassively at the
occupants of the table. Slowly the hands of just about everyone
at the table went up.
Seeing this, Mike Dana’s hand
reluctantly went up as well.
said. “Now with that out of the way, let’s get down
“And just what is that
business?” Dana groused.
Cranek sat back and
steepled his fingertips.
“Why, getting rid of the
biggest obstacle to our business,” Cranek said with
a slight, somewhat sarcastic, smile.
“And what would
that be?” Johnny Neale piped up.
Cranek replied. “Who.”
dramatically, letting everyone at the table wonder who he was
“Gentlemen, I propose to get rid of
Superman,” he finally said.
There were a bunch of
whistles and snickers about the table.
already been tried,” Dana snorted derisively. “Word
is, that costumed creep can’t be killed.”
had an expression on his face that suggested that of the cat just
before catching the canary.
“I’m not talking
about killing him,” he continued. “I’m talking
about neutralizing him, so that he can no longer be a threat to
“And just how do you propose to do that?”
George “Greasy” Born asked.
“Ah, you will see, gentlemen,” he
drawled. “You will see. Now, this meeting is
Everyone got up and slowly started
filtering out the door.
“Ed. Nick. You stay,”
Cranek ordered, referring to “Big Ed” Bullock and
After everyone else had left, Cranek got up
from his chair and led the two other men into the side room that
he had originally come out of. It was a comfortably appointed
living space with various cushioned wingback chairs situated
around the perimeter and a sofa located in the middle of the
room. Cranek motioned the two men to sit down on the sofa, while
he occupied one of the wingback chairs facing them.
answer your earlier question, Ed, I sent a couple of men I hired
from out of town to, uh, shall we say, appropriate the
evidence documents that were in the possession of Lois Lane, that
meddling reporter for the Daily Planet, that fingered me
as being in charge of the rackets in this town. They were
successful. Now the case against me rests only on the Lane dame’s
word against mine. And the Stanton character that invented the
Mind Machine is an absent-minded old fool. They’ll never
convict me on his testimony alone. So things are looking good for
my exoneration. I also know the judge assigned to the case. It
also wasn’t hard to arrange some leverage to insure that he
will see things my way.”
boss,” Ed replied.
“But now, to the subject I
wanted to talk to you men about. The film that you both saw that
was shot by Canby’s girlfriend.”
Nick responded. “We saw it all right. Sally split town
after Canby was arrested. We don’t know where she went. But
we both remember everything that was on the film she
“Including the part where you say Sally
filmed Clark Kent, another reporter for the Planet,
running into an alley. And a few moments later, Superman came out
of the same alley.”
“Then there’s only one
explanation for what you saw,” Cranek continued. “Some
people have suspected for some time that Kent is a personal
friend of Superman, and is able to personally contact him. That
alley is apparently where he meets Superman.”
Ed grunted. “But maybe there’s another
“Like what?” Cranek
“Maybe Kent IS Superman,” Bullock
Cranek’s eyebrows went up. “What?”
“Maybe Kent and Superman are the same
person. Maybe Kent is nothing more than Superman with a disguise
Nick leaned forward. “But why would he do
that?” he said.
“Why not?” Bullock told
him. “This Superman guy can’t go around dressed like
Superman all the time. Maybe when he’s not needed as
Superman he lives another life dressed as someone else. You know,
an ordinary guy.”
Cranek thought for a moment.
“Maybe you’ve got something there,” he finally
replied. “But maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe
Kent is the real person, and Superman is the
“Whatever the truth is,”
Bullock interjected, “this Kent guy must have some
relatives around somewhere that we could get to. Whether he’s
Superman himself, or just a friend of his, grabbing one of Kent’s
relatives should be enough to get Superman to lay off
“Right. Get ahold of Nick, and see what
you two can dig up on any family members Kent’s got
Bullock jumped up and headed for
the door. He opened it, but then he paused, turning back toward
“Boss, what exactly do you think this
Superman guy is?” Bullock asked. “Where did he get
all those powers that he has that other people don’t
Cranek leaned back in his chair. “I
don’t know,” he said. “Maybe he’s a
genetic freak of some kind. Maybe he’s the result of a
secret government experiment. Maybe he’s a Frankenstein.”
Cranek stood up. “In the end it don’t matter
what he is. If he’s got friends, then those friends gotta
have relatives. And if we can snatch one of those relatives, then
we can insure that Superman won’t ever get in our way
Bullock nodded, then walked out.
week later Miss Bachrach, Perry White’s young office
secretary, knocked on the door to Clark Kent’s office,
which was just down the hall from White’s.
working at his typewriter. “Come in,” he responded,
Miss Bachrach came in. Kent stopped typing
and looked up.
“This just came for you,” Miss
Bachrach announced. She smiled and handed Kent an envelope. The
envelope was marked PERSONAL – FOR CLARK KENT, DAILY PLANET
on the outside.
“Thank you,” Kent told her.
She turned and left. Kent opened the envelope and unfolded the
sheet of paper that was inside.
TO CLARK KENT the typed
note on the paper read. WE HAVE YOUR MOTHER, SARAH KENT, UNDER
CONSTANT OBSERVATION. WE CAN STRIKE AT HER IN A MOMENT’S
NOTICE. IF SUPERMAN EVER INTERFERES WITH OUR OPERATIONS AGAIN, WE
WILL SNUFF HER OUT. SIGNED – THE KINGPIN. P.S.: DON’T
LET ANYONE ELSE KNOW ABOUT THIS, OR SHE’S DEAD.
slowly stood up as he read the note. When he finished it, an
expression of intense anger crossed his face. He crumpled the
piece of paper up in his fist, and then started to tear at his
tie. Within seconds he had shed his tie, shirt, and
double-breasted suit, and stood revealed in his Superman
Whirling about, he ran toward the open window in
his office and leaped out of it with a mighty whoosh of
10-story Congress Hotel was one of oldest, most historic hotel
buildings in Metropolis. Built in the late 1800s, its classical
design reflected the ornate opulence of that architectural
period. But for the past 4 years the fifth floor of the exclusive
hotel had served as the unofficial headquarters of organized
crime in Metropolis—specifically the headquarters of Lou
Cranek. Though at one time one of the premier hotels in
Metropolis, now, since Cranek and his mob had moved in, the
Congress was one of the most avoided places in town by
law-abiding residents—as well as the members of rival
gangs. The lobby of the hotel, as well as most of the elevators,
hallways, and public areas, were almost always populated by a
number of slouching, gray-suited mobsters, all associates of
Cranek’s who had been engaged by the
prominent mob boss for security purposes. Even the members of
Metropolis’s police force were reluctant to go into the
hotel, unless it was absolutely necessary.
530 was the one used by Cranek as his office. Located on the
building’s rounded southwest corner, Cranek’s office
suite had ornately plastered walls of gold and a large bay window
that faced the street intersection below. In the center of the
room hung a huge chandelier of smoked glass that shed an amber
light over the room. On one wall was a huge brick fireplace. In
front of the bay window sat Cranek’s massive walnut desk.
Another similar desk stood against the south wall of the room.
Against the north wall of the room stood an elaborately carved
Chinese cabinet. A third oak desk was against the west wall.
There was a radio console situated between the fireplace and the
entrance to the suite. An opulent oriental carpet covered the
floor, and situated around the room were a number of armchairs
and small end tables. Many framed pictures, mostly outdoor
pastoral landscapes, covered the walls. There was one exception:
one picture on the west wall was a portrait of Chicago mobster Al
Capone. A separate bedroom was located off to one side of the
suite, and the entrance to a small bathroom was off the other
side. A third doorway in the suite, always closed and locked, was
a secret escape passageway that led to a first floor back
entrance to the building located on a small, narrow alleyway.
Only Cranek possessed the key to it.
This sanctum is where
Cranek spent most of his time, surrounded by armed underlings who
were there to protect him from any outside disturbances. Very few
outsiders were ever admitted to Cranek’s office, as a
precautionary measure to make sure the crime boss was thoroughly
insulated from either unexpected police raids or assassination
attempts by other Metropolis gang leaders. This particular
afternoon Cranek was standing near the desk against the west
wall, conferring with his private cook who worked in the
restaurant downstairs who provided his meals, always delivered
personally up to his office.
Suddenly there was a loud
and a body flew into the room through the large bay window,
flinging shattered fragments all over the room.
Superman, who had just burst in through the broken window. He
stood just behind Cranek’s desk, an expression of intense
fury on his face.
“Cranek!” Superman shouted
angrily. With one smashing blow he struck his closed fist down on
Cranek’s desk, and the heavy piece of walnut furniture
split in two and fell apart. Superman started to advance into the
room between the now-separated pieces.
The two armed
guards in the room lifted their machine guns and proceeded to
empty them at the oncoming figure. The bullets that missed ripped
into the wall behind Superman. The ones that didn’t bounced
in all directions, shattering pictures, hitting furniture, and
ripping into whatever else lay in their path.
ducked behind an overstuffed chair to avoid the flying missiles.
His cook had already quickly vacated the room as soon as Superman
had appeared. Two more armed guards from the outer hallway burst
into the room and joined the first two. They also proceeded to
fire at Superman—but the Man of Steel ignored them and just
Reaching the first two hoodlums Superman
grabbed them both by their suit coats and flung them behind him.
They both flew across the room. One fell onto an end table, which
collapsed to the floor. That guard did not get up. The other
bounced hard off the wall and fell backwards onto the carpet,
Superman turned to the other two guards and
grabbed them. He lifted them both up off the floor and then
knocked their heads together. They both crumpled back down to the
carpet like balloons with the air let out of them. More guards
started coming in the doorway. As each one came in Superman
repeatedly punched them either in the jaw or the solar plexus,
and each one went down in turn. The fight then spilled out into
the hallway, as more and more gangsters outside Cranek’s
office became aware of what was happening and came to help. The
ensuing brawl lasted for some minutes, and a large pile of
unconscious hoodlums piled up around the hallway. Some of them
ended up with broken jaws; others were left with machine guns
that were twisted into useless pretzels.
battle was done, and Superman stepped back into Cranek’s
office. Cranek nervously stood up from behind the chair where he
had been crouching. In utter desperation he pulled a pistol out
of the shoulder holster he was wearing and emptied its clip at
Superman. Like all the others, the bullets had no effect on their
Superman advanced on Cranek and grabbed
him around the throat. Although the mob boss weighed in the area
of 250+ pounds, Superman easily lifted him up off his feet until
his shoes dangled about a foot above the carpet.
sue you for this,” Cranek croaked.
With his other
hand Superman took the pistol from Cranek’s fist and held
it up in front of the mobster’s face. He made a pointed
show of squeezing the metal handgun into a shapeless hunk of
slag. Cranek’s eyes went wide as he watched this. Then
Superman threw the weapon contemptuously to the floor.
you are?” Superman responded, his voice sharp. “I’d
like to see you try that, Cranek. Try filling your court
complaint out in the name of Superman,
which really isn’t my actual name, and see how far you get.
And what legal address do you plan on having the suit delivered
to? How will you find out where I live—check my driver’s
license? Look up my birth certificate in the name of Superman?
As far as the courts in this country are concerned, as a person I
don’t exist. You can’t sue a man that doesn’t
exist.” He paused for a moment, then he added
sarcastically: “Besides, what jail cell do you think could
“I—I can get Sarah Kent,”
At this Superman let Cranek down. He pushed
him roughly backwards, and the crime boss fell clumsily into one
of the room’s overstuffed chairs (a chair whose fabric had
been severely shredded by flying bullets). Superman then took one
of the room’s floor lamps that was standing nearby, and
with a surge of superhuman strength wrapped its metal pole around
the chair Cranek sat in. Superman pulled the pole tight around
Cranek’s chest, so that the mob boss was only able to take
“Let’s talk about Sarah
Kent,” Superman snapped. “She’s the mother of a
good friend of mine, Clark Kent. I wouldn’t like to see
anything happen to her.”
Superman leaned forward on
the arms of the chair and put his face right up in front of
“Cranek,” he began, “if
I hear that Sarah Kent so much as gets a scratch
that can’t be properly
explained, and I suspect that you had anything at all to do with
it—or even if you didn’t!—I’ll make you
the Man of Steel growled menacingly. “You’ve just
seen today what I can do. And you also know that no one—not
even the police or the courts—will be able to protect you
from me if I decide to come after you. You’d better spread
the word through the underworld grapevine that if anything at all
happens to Sarah Kent, because of you or anyone else, your
life won’t be worth a wooden nickel.”
slowly straightened up. He went over to the other heavy oaken
desk that stood against the west wall of the suite. Lifting it up
like it weighed nothing at all, he went over to the suite’s
still-open door and, turning the desk on its side, wedged it
tightly into the opening so that no one could get into the room
without a great deal of difficulty first.
last angry glance at Cranek, Superman ran over to the suite’s
shattered bay window and leaped out of it.
backwash blew through the room like a small hurricane, mussing
what was left of Cranek’s hair. After Superman was gone,
Cranek found that the lamp pole was bent so tightly around his
chest that he couldn’t even gather enough breath to yell
He would just have to wait until someone outside
the room was able to get inside to him.
And that could be
beyond the fence surrounding the Kent family farmhouse a man
crouched in the bushes. He had just finished eating a sandwich,
and had laid his rifle down on the ground nearby. Next to it sat
a small two-way radio, similar to the ones used in the field
during World War II in Europe.
Abruptly he heard the sound
of whooshing wind, even though there wasn’t a cloud in the
sky. He looked up. Suddenly panicked, he grabbed his rifle and
began firing it up into the sky.
The next moment Superman
landed on the ground right beside him. The Man of Steel grabbed
the gangster’s rifle and yanked it out of his hands. Then
he landed a haymaker on the thug’s jaw that sent him flying
backward into the bushes. Superman then broke the rifle in two
over his knee. Then he smashed the radio into mangled junk.
long after, a second sentry assigned to keep an eye on the Kent
farmhouse a short distance away felt a hand grab him by the back
of his collar. He was yanked off his feet backward into the
bushes. A quick karate chop to the back of the neck by Superman
and he fell in a heap. His weapon and radio was also quickly
reduced to permanent non-working order.
A few minutes
later a third sentry found himself in similar circumstances. As
he watched the Kent farm, suddenly there was a tap on his
shoulder. When he turned all he saw was a fist coming at him. The
lights immediately went out.
Not long after the police
officer on duty at Smallville Police Headquarters received a call
concerning the whereabouts of three tied-up trespassers on the
Kent farm property who were wanted members of Lou Cranek’s
next day, after having temporarily moved his business and living
quarters into another suite in the Congress Hotel (and being
forced to pay for all damages to his former suite), Lou Cranek
sent for Ed Bullock. Within minutes Bullock came into Cranek’s
room. Cranek angrily gave Bullock some new marching
“Boss, are you sure
that’s what you want?” Bullock queried, a bit
“You heard me!” Cranek shot back. “I
want you to send some men down to the Kent farm in Smallville to
Cranek nervously picked up a cigar from
an end table and lit it. His hand shook slightly.
happens to that woman,” he continued, pointing his finger
at Bullock, “if she so much as breaks a fingernail,
I’m gonna take it out on your hide!”
shrugged his shoulders, then turned and walked out.
he did every week at the same time without fail, Clark Kent
picked up the telephone on his desk in his office and called his
mother back in Smallville.
“How is everything going,
Mom?” he asked her, once the connection had been made.
just fine, son,” Sarah Kent replied. “Everything is
quiet here. Just like always.”
“Glad to hear that, Mom,” he replied.
The End ~